How to Become a Geographic Information Systems Tech or Specialist (2023)

How to Become a Geographic Information Systems Tech or Specialist (1)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a computer-based method for collecting, managing, analyzing, modeling, and presenting geographic or spatial data. GIS software allows you to overlay maps and datasets and query them in terms of their spatial relationships to each other. For example, you could load different layers for rivers, creeks and streams, flood maps, and land parcels to determine which homeowners to warn in a storm event.

GIS is an analysis tool that's used in a wide range of areas, including health, city government, transportation, urban planning, business marketing, geology and archaeology. It's used to route emergency and fleet vehicles, determine the best places for new wineries and other businesses, and conducting demographic, market, and political research.

However, the technology was originally created as a conservation tool. In this context, it's used for mapping wildlife habitat, vegetation ranges, carbon emission sources, and polluted areas. It's also used to identify conservation areas, site new wind farms and solar energy projects, and much more.

What Does a GIS Specialist Do?

GIS specialists build and maintain GIS databases, and use GIS software to analyze the spatial and non-spatial information in them. They may work under a wide variety of job titles, including GIS Analyst, GIS Technician, and Cartographer.

Their daily activities may include entering various types of data into GIS databases, such as text or spreadsheet files of latitude and longitude coordinates, tabular data, aerial or satellite imagery, and manual digitizing of paper maps or map images. They also analyze GIS data to identify spatial relationships, or display the results of analyses; review GIS data for currency and accuracy; document the parameters and context of GIS data; perform geospatial modeling or spatial analysis; and create thematic maps for environmental and educational purposes.

Many GIS Specialists use desktop GIS software to analyze data and create maps for internal purposes. However, they're increasingly involved in launching and supporting online and mobile maps for public consumption. This type of work involves a solid background in computer science and programming. Programming languages like Python or ArcObjects are also used in desktop mapping to automate processes, or create customized tools and workflows.

Where Does a GIS Tech Work?

While GIS Technicians spend most of their time in offices, some may work in the field, visiting the area they're mapping to gather or verify data. Most GIS technicians work full time during typical business hours. They may work longer days when doing field work.

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What Is the Average GIS Specialist Salary?

The median annual wage for GIS specialists, who fall under the broader BLS category of cartographers, was $68,380 as of May 2020. The federal government was the highest payer for this profession, with a median salary of $92,650, while those in local government earned a median salary of $66,270 and those in management, scientific, and technical consulting services earned $64,270.*

Geographic Information Systems Jobs & Job Description

Recent GIS Specialist Job Listings

Use the search box below to find all the GIS job listings in our job board.

(Video) Geographic Information System as a Career: What I Wish I Knew

Specialist technicians like those who use, run, develop, and maintain GIS systems perform an integral data-collection and analysis function that many other scientists depend on. Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist:

  • Create maps and graphs, using GIS software and data collection equipment.
  • Perform research to obtain and expand existing datasets
  • Gather and report on GIS data and determine how data sets are best utilized through GIS
  • Compile geographic and demographic data from many sources
  • Consult with external stakeholders to access censuses, fieldwork, satellite and aerial imagery, and maps
  • Compile data for statistics to incorporate into documents and reports
  • Build, manipulate, and update databases
  • Enter new map data using cartographic principles
  • Analyze and model relationships between geographic data sets
  • Operate and maintain GIS system hardware, software, and peripherals
  • Present information to clients and stakeholders in verbal or written format

Second-tier GIS technicians and researchers often have team lead or senior advisor roles. Accordingly, they may have more managerial or administrative responsibilities, such as:

  • Producing GIS technical documents like proposals and presentations for stakeholders
  • Producing funding and grant applications
  • Conducting planning, research and analysis, and assessments in order to best direct the project
  • Navigating regulatory processes
  • Ensuring quality and continuous improvement through innovation, and meeting timelines and benchmarks
  • Consulting activities including: project management, tracking billable time, communicating schedules, directing/ supervising staff, and driving profitability
  • Successfully bidding for and managing projects and funding opportunities
  • Creating a challenging but collegial environment
  • Acting as mentor to junior team members

What Is the Job Demand for GIS Careers?

Employment of GIS specialists and cartographers is projected to grow 5 percent between 2020 and 2030. This small profession should see about 1,200 job openings annually during this period.*

While demand is high, employers seek out those who have practical experience in addition to education. It's very important to gain experience as early as possible. This may mean participating in an internship, or volunteering for nonprofit organizations to build up a portfolio. A solid portfolio, experience, and knowledge of computer programming are key to being competitive in the job market. Web programming will be an increasingly useful skill as online and mobile mapping expands.

Where Can This Career Take Me?

GIS specialists generally start out as GIS Technicians who georeference paper and digital map images (assigning them coordinates), and digitize the information on them, usually by hand. This generally means tracing lines like roads and streams, and polygons like building or lake outlines. Attention to detail is particularly important for this type of work.

(Video) Geographic Information System as a Career

Technicians usually work their way up to GIS Analyst positions. Analysts are involved in more creative, problem-solving work, such as determining the sequence of analytical operations necessary to investigate an area or issue - to determine the best site for a new wind farm, for example. GIS specialists can eventually become supervisors or GIS Coordinators who manage all GIS activities within an enterprise or government department.

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What GIS Courses and Degrees Are Available?

GIS specialists usually have a bachelor's degree in geography, cartography, or surveying. These programs are typically offered by geography departments. However, since GIS tools are used to support a wide variety of disciplines, classes may also be offered as part of engineering, forestry, geology, or environmental science programs. Many schools now offer minors, certificates, and master's programs in GIS and other geospatial technologies. However, within the earth and environmental sciences, these offerings generally enhance the skills and credibility of scientists, rather than standing on their own. For this reason, those interested in applying GIS to environmental issues would be wise to develop a broad background in environmental science, forestry, geology, etc., as well as math and computer programming.

Some states require cartographers to be licensed as surveyors. Candidates must have earned at least a high school diploma, and must also pass a test.

GIS specialists can also earn certification as a Certified GIS Professional (GISP) through the GIS Certification Institute. Several states have recognized and endorsed the GISP. The GISP has also been endorsed by the National Association of Counties.

Certification renewal is required every five years. Esri Technical Certification is also available for Esri's ArcGIS software, a suite of popular GIS solutions. While the above certifications are optional, they set candidates apart, demonstrating their skill and dedication. Such certifications are increasingly important for promotions and advancement.

Read more about Geographic Information Systems Degree options.

GIS - Related Degrees

  • Earth Science Master’s and Graduate Certificates Online
  • Online Geoscience Degree
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Environmental Biology Degree
  • Geospatial Science Degrees - Online and Campus

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(Video) 5 Stages of a Geographic Information System

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What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do GIS Specialists Have?

  • The Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) helps conservationists learn about and use GIS in their work through networking, scholarships, and training. It holds an annual conference, hosts a discussion board and job board, and organizes local chapters around the world.
  • The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is a professional association for the geospatial industry. It offers several types of professional certifications. While optional, these certifications enhance professional credentials and set jobseekers apart in a competitive market. It holds annual and specialty conferences, supports divisions, and offers networking opportunities through national job fairs, workshops, and social activities.
  • The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is largely comprised of management-level geospatial specialists, many of whom coordinate state activities. However, any geospatial specialist is welcome to join. NSGIC is an excellent way to hear about the new initiatives of other members, and to learn from peer-to-peer mentoring.
  • The University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) is an association of over 60 universities that advances research and education in geospatial technologies. It facilitates networking through conferences and provides timely information on grants and contracts in the field to employees of member institutions. Its workshops are open to non-members for a fee.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for cartographers and photogrammetrists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

FAQs

How do you become a GIS specialist? ›

GIS Analysts are required to hold a bachelor's degree in either Computer Science, Geography, Geoscience, Surveying, Engineering, or a related field. Many entry-level positions do not require prior experience to apply, but some might require 1-5 years of related work experience or a GIS analyst internship.

How do I prepare for a GIS technical interview? ›

Ten Tips to Prepare for a GIS Job Interview
  1. Volunteer. ...
  2. Create a Portfolio. ...
  3. Research the GIS Job You Are Interviewing For. ...
  4. Don't Rush to Answer. ...
  5. Project the Right Body Language. ...
  6. Make Sure to Highlight Your Experiences. ...
  7. Demonstrate Your Ability to Work Collaboratively. ...
  8. Be Positive.
Aug 27, 2022

What skills do you need to be a GIS technician? ›

To ensure success as a GIS technician, you should have advanced computer mapping skills, excellent problem-solving skills, and a passion for scientific research. A top-class GIS technician can take raw geographic data and transform it into usable maps and documents for business purposes.

Is a GIS technician a good job? ›

Despite the bland characteristics of duties, GIS technicians are fairly satisfied with their jobs. This is because they are constantly challenged by advances in GIS technology. This means they can grow into disciplines such as cartography, database management, programming, machine learning, and spatial analysis.

Are GIS jobs hard to get? ›

It can be difficult for many recent graduates to find entry-level GIS jobs in the first few months of searching. The industry can appear tough to break into and it may seem as if job opportunities are few and far between. But by working with experts and temporary staffing services, you can find your ideal role.

How much do GIS specialists make? ›

The average salary for a gis specialist is R 32 681 per month in South Africa.

What questions are asked in a GIS interview? ›

General questions
  • Describe a time you made a mistake at work and how you fixed it.
  • How would your colleagues describe your personality?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What interests you about GIS?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • How do you manage stress at work?
  • Describe your ideal work environment.

Why you choose GIS as a career? ›

Individuals can now easily enhance humanitarian efforts like disease control and city planning to provide business intelligence solutions for product marketing and management. Besides, individuals with experience in GIS can also move ahead with career options like Data Analyst, Financial Analyst etc.

What are 3 applications of GIS? ›

20 Ways GIS Data is Used in Business and Everyday Life
  • 2.1 1. Mapping.
  • 2.2 2. Telecom and Network Services.
  • 2.3 3. Accident Analysis and Hot Spot Analysis.
  • 2.4 4. Urban planning.
  • 2.5 5. Transportation Planning.
  • 2.6 6. Environmental Impact Analysis.
  • 2.7 7. Agricultural Applications.
  • 2.8 8. Disaster Management and Mitigation.

What are the top 5 skills a GIS technician must have? ›

5 Skills Every GIS Analyst Needs
  • Possess strong IT skills.
  • Can manipulate complex databases.
  • Are highly detail-oriented.
  • Are clean writers and thoughtful communicators.
  • Can problem-solve individually and on a team.
Mar 3, 2020

Are GIS skills in demand? ›

This is a booming profession, and there's a lot of demand for experienced people. Many different industries need GIS analysts and technicians—governments, telecom, environmental, utilities, education, and much more.

What is the difference between GIS specialist and GIS technician? ›

They differ from GIS Specialists in that they do not manipulate data, analyze, filter or create reports. Essentially, a GIS Technician is a database administrator who updates the data but does not use it.

How long does it take to learn GIS? ›

How Long Does It Take to Learn a GIS? While it will take much longer to master certain data measuring techniques, you can learn GIS software in only two weeks. Remember, there is GIS programming involved so first learning some of the best programming languages may give you a better foundation.

Is GIS certificate worth? ›

An online GIS certification is a valuable asset for those looking to climb the professional ladder and start working in the geospatial industry. And with the added benefits of avoiding the cost of a traditional GIS degree, online GIS education is a win-win for employers and employees.

What do GIS technician do? ›

Geographic information systems (GIS) technicians read, interpret and create maps. These technicians also update data related to geographical areas using GIS tools. In this position, GIS technicians usually work on a team and assist other professionals such as scientists and technologists.

Why is GIS so hard? ›

GIS is difficult because users focus on data , while GIS software focuses on operations. GIS is typically described as a set of operations applied to data: overlying polygons, creating buffers, calculating viewshed. There have even been attempts to specify a formal "algebra" of spatial operations (e.g. Tomlin, 1990).

Is GIS a good career 2022? ›

There are currently 21,645 jobs available on Indeed.com that are asking for GIS skills. A summary of GIS salaries shows that the average is $72,995/yr but earnings rapidly increase with developer and administrator skills.

What is a GIS job like? ›

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysts work at the intersection of data analysis, programming and cartography. Their primary duties include analyzing spatial data through mapping software and designing digital maps with geographic data and various other data sets.

Which subjects are required for GIS? ›

Admission requirements to qualify as GIS specialist

Compulsory school subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science. Recommended subject: Geography. Additional requirements: Pass matric with university exemption and meet the admission requirements (APS) for the relevant course.

Who is a GIS specialist? ›

GIS specialists build and maintain GIS databases, and use GIS software to analyze the spatial and non-spatial information in them. They may work under a wide variety of job titles, including GIS Analyst, GIS Technician, and Cartographer.

What is the highest paying IT jobs? ›

Here are some of the highest paying IT jobs in 2023:
  • Data Scientist.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Architect.
  • Big Data Engineer.
  • Software Architect.
  • Blockchain Engineer.
  • DevOps Engineer.
  • Cloud Architect.
  • Full-Stack Developer.
7 days ago

Which programming languages are the most valuable for GIS specialists to know? ›

Common Programming Languages in the Geospatial Industry
RankBusiness Insider - ranking based on GitHubGoGeomatices: Top Languages in the GIS World
1JavaScriptPython
2JavaJavaScript
3PythonR
4PHPSQL
6 more rows

What are GIS commands? ›

GIS – Command is a module of Rolta BMS Command, an extremely responsive and lightweight Militarized GIS specially designed for use at Battalion and Company Commanders level. It exploits cutting edge geospatial technologies to deliver unbelievably high quality display, visualization and analysis capabilities.

What questions do they ask during interview? ›

50+ most common job interview questions
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • How did you hear about this position?
  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What can you bring to the company?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
Sep 2, 2022

What are the benefits of learning GIS? ›

Using GIS in education helps students frame, visualize, and grapple with problems. It even enables students to create solutions to those problems, whether they are about natural hazards, climate, urban greenways, litter, energy, social inequity, or other complex issues of our day.

Where are the most GIS jobs? ›

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California offers some of the most GIS career opportunities, along with Texas, Maryland and Colorado.

What's an example of GIS? ›

GIS maps can be used to show information about numbers and density. For example, GIS can show how many doctors there are in a neighborhood compared with the area's population. With GIS technology, researchers can also look at change over time.

What are the 5 benefits of GIS? ›

The Benefits of GIS are:
  • Make Better Business Decisions. ...
  • Improve Functional Performance & Reduce Cost. ...
  • Enhance Customer Service and Increase Sales. ...
  • Better & More Cost-effective Plan Citizens.
Jan 5, 2013

What are the 5 main components of GIS? ›

A working GIS integrates five key components: hardware, software, data, people, and methods. Hardware is the computer on which a GIS operates. Today, GIS software runs on a wide range of hardware types, from centralized computer servers to desktop computers used in stand-alone or networked configurations.

How do you put GIS skills on a resume? ›

How to use gis skills on your resume:
  1. Received promotion to GIS Department in less than 1 year of working as Fiber Engineer Tech 2.
  2. Managed team of 15 vendor and contract employees.
  3. Briefed VPs weekly on account breaks 10m+
  4. Saved 1k+ hours by developing ownership protocols for 35k+ accounts.

What are the four skills entailed in GIS? ›

Top 6 skills a GIS technician must have
  • - Understanding geographic data. If we are not talking about the most important capability of all, we are talking about a fundamental one. ...
  • - Know the basics of programming. ...
  • - Database management. ...
  • - Making professional contacts. ...
  • - Knowing how to manage projects. ...
  • - A willingness to learn.
Apr 14, 2022

How do you put GIS on a resume? ›

Here are some of the key details that it can be beneficial to include in a GIS resume:
  1. Name and contact information.
  2. Work experience.
  3. Applicable skills.
  4. Educational background.
  5. GIS software experience.
  6. Previous GIS projects.
Aug 25, 2021

Is GIS a high paying career? ›

In the geospatial technology job market within the United States we can expect to see a compensation that can range from $40,000 to $155,000 per year. Here are the typical salary ranges: GIS Manager $50-$130k. GIS Developer $52-$115k.

What is the future of GIS? ›

GIS of the future may very well be in augmented reality and virtual reality. AR and VR use continues to grow as users become more comfortable with the technology, and this will lead to more and more developers integrating GIS capabilities into their applications, Benton said.

What is a GIS degree? ›

The GIS degree specialization is for Urban Studies majors interested in learning computer-based mapping and spatial data analysis. Students will learn to create maps through hands-on training, computer labs, lectures, and projects.

How much does a GIS specialist make in Canada? ›

The average pay for a GIS Specialist is $70,649 a year and $34 an hour in Canada. The average salary range for a GIS Specialist is between $50,584 and $85,132. On average, a Bachelor's Degree is the highest level of education for a GIS Specialist.

How much does a GIS specialist earn in South Africa? ›

The average gis specialist salary in South Africa is R 510 000 per year or R 262 per hour. Entry-level positions start at R 390 000 per year, while most experienced workers make up to R 3 036 286 per year.

What is another name for a GIS analyst? ›

Geographic Information Systems Technician. Supervising Geographic Information Systems Technician. Geographic Information Systems Analyst.

How do I start in GIS? ›

The starting point in building a successful career in GIS is a solid education. This involves taking classes in cartography, GIS, spatial analysis, database management, web technologies, and programming.

Where do GIS analysts work? ›

GIS analysts can put their skills to work in a number of different areas, whether they are assisting in urban environments, helping with environmental protection, or contributing to military intelligence. Regardless of where they work, GIS analysts may: Produce maps for the general public and for field use.

Does a GIS certificate expire? ›

RECERTIFICATION DETAILS

All professionals with an active GISP certification will recertify for a three-year period on the expiration date and will pay an annual maintenance fee of $95 for each of the three years of the recertification period. No active GISPs will have to take the new Exam for recertification.

What can I do after GIS course? ›

9 Amazing Careers That Require A GIS Degree
  1. #1. GIS Technicians.
  2. #2. Cartographer or Mapper.
  3. #3. Geospatial Analyst or GIS Analyst.
  4. #4. Remote Sensing Specialist or Technician.
  5. #5. Career As A GIS Developer.
  6. #6. GIS Project Manager.
  7. #7. GIS Facility Manager.
  8. #8. GIS Data Scientist.
Jul 16, 2021

Is getting a Masters in GIS worth it? ›

GIS master's degrees or graduate certificates give you the expertise you need to set yourself apart from other candidates and existing employees and allow you to advance your career. They also help set you up to earn the GIS degree salary you want.

How do you become a GIS specialist? ›

GIS Analysts are required to hold a bachelor's degree in either Computer Science, Geography, Geoscience, Surveying, Engineering, or a related field. Many entry-level positions do not require prior experience to apply, but some might require 1-5 years of related work experience or a GIS analyst internship.

Is a GIS technician a good job? ›

Despite the bland characteristics of duties, GIS technicians are fairly satisfied with their jobs. This is because they are constantly challenged by advances in GIS technology. This means they can grow into disciplines such as cartography, database management, programming, machine learning, and spatial analysis.

What are the basic duties of a GIS technician and the 5 most important skills to perform duties? ›

GIS Technician Responsibilities:

Compiling geographic information in the form of satellite images, geographical surveys, and aerial photographs. Researching and verifying geographic data. Entering new data into the GIS database. Drawing maps using advanced computer software.

What do GIS specialist do? ›

A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist designs, develops, and implements systems and databases to access and store geospatial data. GIS specialists design digital maps using geospatial data and analyze spatial and non-spatial information.

What is the difference between a GIS technician and analyst? ›

GIS analysts tend to more be focused on the development side of GIS than GIS technicians. GIS analysts create scripting customizations (mostly using Python and/or javascript) and might also focus on web mapping development.

What is a GIS degree? ›

The GIS degree specialization is for Urban Studies majors interested in learning computer-based mapping and spatial data analysis. Students will learn to create maps through hands-on training, computer labs, lectures, and projects.

Is GIS a good career in Canada? ›

GIS is a strong career, and it will be in demand for a long time. But like all careers, GIS is changing fast with new techniques every day. The diagram below shows the range of salary from entry-level (less experience) to senior level (more experience).

What skills do you think are most valuable for a GIS specialist? ›

5 Skills Every GIS Analyst Needs
  • Possess strong IT skills.
  • Can manipulate complex databases.
  • Are highly detail-oriented.
  • Are clean writers and thoughtful communicators.
  • Can problem-solve individually and on a team.
Mar 3, 2020

What is the difference between GIS specialist and GIS technician? ›

They differ from GIS Specialists in that they do not manipulate data, analyze, filter or create reports. Essentially, a GIS Technician is a database administrator who updates the data but does not use it.

What are the courses in GIS? ›

  • Course 1. Fundamentals of GIS. 4.8. 5,031 ratings. ...
  • Course 2. GIS Data Formats, Design and Quality. 4.9. 1,916 ratings. ...
  • Course 3. Geospatial and Environmental Analysis. 4.8. 1,126 ratings. ...
  • Course 4. Imagery, Automation, and Applications. 4.9. 645 ratings.

Where can a GIS specialist work? ›

A GIS specialist can work under job titles such as GIS Analyst, GIS Technician, GIS Coordinator, and Cartographer. The role of a GIS specialist is especially crucial in projects like construction projects and civil engineering.

Is getting a Masters in GIS worth it? ›

GIS master's degrees or graduate certificates give you the expertise you need to set yourself apart from other candidates and existing employees and allow you to advance your career. They also help set you up to earn the GIS degree salary you want.

What is another name for a GIS analyst? ›

Geographic Information Systems Technician. Supervising Geographic Information Systems Technician. Geographic Information Systems Analyst.

Should I study GIS? ›

Developing skills in geographic information systems (GIS) can lead to a variety of career paths in government, real estate, public health, crime mapping, landscape architecture, community planning, logistics and so much more.

Is a GIS certificate worth it? ›

An online GIS certification is a valuable asset for those looking to climb the professional ladder and start working in the geospatial industry. And with the added benefits of avoiding the cost of a traditional GIS degree, online GIS education is a win-win for employers and employees.

What are examples of GIS? ›

GIS applications include both hardware and software systems. These applications may include cartographic data, photographic data, digital data, or data in spreadsheets. Cartographic data are already in map form, and may include such information as the location of rivers, roads, hills, and valleys.

How long does it take to learn GIS? ›

How Long Does It Take to Learn a GIS? While it will take much longer to master certain data measuring techniques, you can learn GIS software in only two weeks. Remember, there is GIS programming involved so first learning some of the best programming languages may give you a better foundation.

Where are the most GIS jobs? ›

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California offers some of the most GIS career opportunities, along with Texas, Maryland and Colorado.

How much does a GIS technician make in Canada? ›

The average gis technician salary in Canada is $63,210 per year or $32.42 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $53,625 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $73,583 per year.

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